It must take a very special man, who purchases at his own risk a hut at 2,584 m and completely rebuilds it. At a location, which was once the starting point for the first ascent of the Täschhorn but which lost its importance from an alpinist’s point of view. “The mountain is not half bad,” said this man, Viktor Imboden from Täsch, ski teacher and mountain guide. He is 74 years old and has run the Kinhütte together with his brother Ludwig since its celebrated christening on 20 July 2002. He bought it with a handshake from Guido Biner from Zermatt in 1996. This also has something to do with local patriotism: mountain guides from Täsch and Randa built the Kinhütte in 1903. Viktor’s grandfather was part of that effort. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the high tours became increasingly difficult from here, the building was used to house workers building the Grande Dixence. The repurchase to Täsch was seen as a generational project together with Viktor’s son, Bernhard. Then Bernhard died at age 26 on 7 September 1995 on the Roseg glacier in Graubünden. It was the last day of his mountain guide examinations.
His father did not give up his dream. He received a go ahead in 1996. For a few years, this meant staying on course until all of the permits for a new building were issued. Viktor Imboden carried many things through the mountains: worry, sorrow, the cross on the peak of the Rimpfischhorn together with his friend Henry Willi, and his younger son, Ivan Imboden, in memory of Bernhard.
Edelweiss – as far as the eye can see just above the fork in the trail from the Europaweg towards the Kinhütte: the Edelweiss Trail. This symbol of the Alps grows here on Alpine grass and not among the rocks. The stems are at least 20 cm long. Is it the wind that moves the blossoms? Is it insects? Twilight. Weisshorn, Schalihorn, Bishorn are just scissor-cut silhouettes extracted from the paper sky.
The author of this story took the casual approach to the Kinhütte and readied herself – with nerves on edge – for her first night out of doors. It is the beginning of September, around 8 pm. A short distance after Springelboden and the crossing of the bridge over the Wildibach, which drops almost vertically into the depths, the moral fortitude of this frivolous hiker took a nosedive before reaching bottom and some hard facts.
It is remarkable how steep a cliff face can look at dusk. It is the Kinfelsen and far above – I really have to stretch my neck muscles – about 300 metres higher, a light is burning. Now my pride has found its limit; I have to call the hut warden as long as my cellphone still has power. “Dying of starvation on the final metres, is that it?” asks Viktor Imboden. “Shall I come a way in your direction?” he asks. “Yes, please. That could motivate me.”
Steep through tight turns, the path continues upwards. T3 is what they call it: challenging mountain hiking and this in darkness, hiking boots with worn treads, without adjustable poles, exhausted and ashamed. Viktor Imboden, however, looks the way a mountain guide is supposed to look. He wears a headband with an edelweiss motif on it. This is his trademark. Over that – why should I be surprised at this time of day? – a headlamp. He musters his guest: “How are you?” “Fine!” What more needs to be said? “Would you like to have my lamp?” “Gladly.”
How such a ponderous mountain pace comes closer to its goal when it persistently maintains its pace! But there are ropes, fixation points, stairs here. Viktor and his brother Ludwig have improved this path. And now? Moths circle the headlamp, the cone of light encompasses the hut warden’s steps, edelweiss gently waves in the breeze. Whoever can move forwards in this way must have eyes in his calves. And whoever does not have walking sticks and is not sure-footed in the dark, occasionally waves about with her hands and arms. Could it be that this hiker at times crawled on all fours? Suppressed! T3: “sure-footed, good trekking boots, average orientation skills, elementary alpine experience.” We will not ever forget the teachings of the ascent to this hut, which in part is lovely and in part has demanded everything. Also not because of Viktor Imboden and how he strode through the night. The feet in his hiking boots are toeless. On 28 October 1988, he reached the top of Lhotse Shar, the eastern peak of the Lhotse in the Himalayas, together with his friend, the Zermatt mountain guide Henry Willi. Viktor suffered from frostbite. He and Henry remained at the top for some time.
Lhotse Shar was also not just any old mountain: 8,382 m. It was the only eight thousand-metre peak the ministry in Nepal could give the expedition team permission for in that autumn of 1988. 16 mountain guides from the Zermatt Mountain Guide Club took part back then. Viktor and Henry were able to conquer the peak. It was only the third successful climb of this mountain. “Viktor is a man with principles,” says Bruno Jelk, expedition head in 1988. “When Viktor wants something, then he does it with everything he can muster, then he does more than the others. He is very hard on himself.”
A Place for Connoisseurs
At 2,584 m, the Kinhütte is above the Wildkin at the foot of the Grabenhorns, surrounded by the Täschhorn and Kinhorn, Leiterspitzen and Dom. Up to 300 guests overnight there every year. The suspended bridge on the Europaweg before Randa has not yet been restored, which explains why fewer hikers have visited the hut since 2010. This is too bad, because the warm hospitality of Michèle Baumgartner, Viktor Imboden’s girlfriend, awaits the visitor. The couple once again makes every effort to make a visit to their hut an unforgettable excursion. Loving attention goes into the preparation of the food. Michèle bakes the bread herself.
The Kinhütte is a hut in which the entire passion of the hut warden has been invested. Viktor Imboden does not talk much. It is the hut, which speaks for him, his Kinhütte. The people, who one meets up here, are connoisseurs, valued friends, people from the area, who have a special relationship with the Täschhorn, even hikers, who have taken the other path. People with a sense not only for what is beautiful but also for what is true in life. Those who leave the edelweiss alone when it gently waves in the mountain breeze.
Kinhütte reservations (only by telephone)
Season: beginning of July to September
Viktor Imboden, mountain guide and ski teacher
Tel: +41 (0)27 967 86 18 (Hut)
The Kinhütte is a private hut. No price reductions for SAC members.
From Randa, allow at least 3 hours for the climb to the hut; from Täsch, at least 4 hours. On the hut’s homepage, there are maps under “Wanderungen” that show the various trails. A telephone call to the hut warden to discuss trail options is recommended.